The emergence of a musical trend or style generally sees the ascension of a musician who rules the roost till the trend dies out. Sometimes a trend lasts for years, but there will always come a time when something newer and shinier takes over. In such circumstances, musicians who once ruled the scene find it difficult to adapt to newer styles. Hence, with the end of a musical cycle we generally find these artistes struggling to hold their own against the new kids on the block. It takes a lot of musical versatility and open-mindedness to be able to live through and successfully adapt to the ever-changing trends that constitute the music scene. Many musicians do not give much importance to musical fads and consider trying to acknowledge such changes irrelevant and a waste of time and energy. There are however, those who like to move with the times and have no hesitation in moulding their game plan as per the musical demand of the hour. One such individual who is no stranger to such adaptation and who can successfully claim to have made his music relevant with each passing day is Neel Adhikari.
Neel has been actively involved in the evolution of the Kolkata music scene from his college days, and the “band” movement of the early nineties is a far cry from the singer-songwriter phase that he currently finds himself in. But Neel has managed to expertly steer himself through these rollicking years and there can be no doubt that this has made him a better and more versatile musician. It is this combination of adaptability and experience that he brings to the table with his new outfit Neel And The Lightbulbs – a quartet that has been bravely treading the indie waters both locally and nationally.
Neel Adhikari and his band of merry men display a level of musicianship and maturity that is generally not observed in most debut albums. But this is no surprise, since his band mates Roheet Mukherjee, Avinash Chhordia and Subhodip Banerjee are not newbies in any sense of the word. And while it is true that Neel And The Lightbulbs has not been in existence for too long, this quartet comprises of a bunch of seasoned professionals who have gelled together musically with consummate ease. Rewind is the end-product of this musical symbiosis, and a fine one at that!
Rewind is essentially a happy-go-lucky, feel-good album. There are no dark and gloomy messages or sinister undertones in any of the songs, and things are kept simple both musically and lyrically. Unlike the average indie album that is available in the market where most songs end up sounding like copy-paste versions of each other, on Rewind the band has put in a lot of effort to break away from this generic musical pattern. And the outcome of this is an album that has a distinct appeal to music lovers across genres.
Although Neel And The Lightbulbs has been one of the most prominent bands in the current independent scene in Kolkata, it would be wrong to label their debut album an out-and-out indie concoction. If anything, Rewind is a solid rock album comprising of distinct singer-songwriter elements, bursts of rock-anthem like choruses and strains of alternative melodies.
There are 9 tracks on this album and each song has a distinct feel to it. The album opener ‘Big Mistake’ bears a strong political message and Avinash Chordia does a lovely job on the drums to give this song the perfect feel. ‘Big Mistake’ may be classified as a “protest” song – for want of a better word – and like most protest songs, the lyrics on this track are likely to make you sit up and take notice.
The second track ‘Coolio‘ displays a beautiful interplay between Avinash and Subhodip which progresses to a point where the duo can’t be held back any more, and it ultimately builds-up and crescendoes into a wonderful chorus section. The listener may find a lot of nineties British alternative influences in this track, which makes it a fun listen.
The most popular track on the album is the title track ‘Rewind’. The video for this song has already done the rounds on music channels and there is something hypnotic about the sound of the electric guitar, which is expertly used to lend this composition a soothing ambience that makes the listener feel introspective. Rewind’s catchy melody is a clear indicator of why it is such a crowd pleaser.
‘Washing Windows’ is arguably the slowest song on the album. Although lyrically and composition-wise this song can by no means be labeled weak, personally I found the song’s tempo a tad soporific.
My personal chart-topper ‘Quarter Past Nine’ is a beautifully-crafted composition and when a song such as this is playing, there is very little you can do but sit back and let the music overpower you. The sound of the guitar will both captivate and transport you back to the early 1960s era of folk rock (think The Byrds and Turn! Turn! Turn!) and while the tempo of the song slightly picks up towards the end, it does not dampen the softness or mood of this composition – and the main reason for this is Neel’s soothing vocals. ‘Quarter Past Nine’ is probably the closest to perfection that Neel And The Lightbulbs have achieved on their debut album and it raises the bar considerably.
Musically ‘Of Mice And Men’ is a huge contrast in comparison to its preceding track ‘Quarter Past Nine’ in terms of both mood and tempo. While musical variety on an album makes it interesting, unfortunately I found ‘Of Mice And Men’ to be a bit of an unnecessary inclusion on this album. Maybe if this song was positioned differently on the album, it would have worked better, but what I am sure of is that ‘Of Mice And Men’ would do great when played live, but this does not translate well on the album and without that vibe, this song feels like a fish out of water.
‘Broke‘ is another beautiful composition and a delight to the ears. The rhythm section here allows the vocals to take center-stage and do a fine job in controlling the mood of the track. A special mention goes to the backing vocals on this song, that ably lend support by providing a calming reassurance. ‘Broke’ is definitely one of the strongest tracks on Rewind.
The lyrics on ‘Universe‘ are by far the most interesting on this album and that is saying a lot considering that the lyrical content on Rewind is top-notch. ‘Universe’ is a haunting track and it starts off by transporting the listener to an environment that is both dream-like and ethereal. But the listener is slowly brought back to reality, by the guitars which beautifully build up the tempo of this track until everything comes crashing down in a crescendo. ‘Universe’ ends just as it begins, lending a beautiful twist to this album.
‘Padampada’ is the final song on Rewind. Unlike the other 8 tracks, ‘Padampada’ was composed by both Neel and Subhodip, and what they churn out is something quite unlike the other songs on this album. There is a distinct bluesy, rock-n-roll feel to this song which makes the melody both catchy and instantly hummable. Chances are you will be singing along during the chorus without realizing it!
Rating an album nowadays is no easy task, especially when opinions are a dime a dozen. In my opinion, this album is by far the strongest body of work that I have come across from the pen and guitar of Neel Adhikari. Having said so, one cannot overlook the effort put in by his bandmates. Neel has been a part of some of the best known bands from Kolkata, but it is with The Lightbulbs that I find him at his strongest. The legendary Miti Adhikari who was in charge of the mixing and programming of Rewind also deserves a special mention, for his expertise provides a classy finish to the final product.